The Greatest Movie Ever Made

Groundhog DayIf I were trapped on a desert island with only five movies I would likely choose a series of documentaries with titles like How to Survive on a Desert Island for Dummies, How to Purify Salt Water, The Idiots Guide to Making Sun Screen from Coconuts, Fish, and Banana Leaves, and Spear Fishing 101 but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of the question that supposedly entertained our pant suited forbearers as they listened to Astrud Gilberto tunes on the hi-fi.

I’m a capricious guy, so my list of favorite movies is always subject to revision, but there are two films that have earned a fixed position in the top five: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Groundhog Day. Since it’s not Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Day, I’ll focus on the Bill Murray and Harold Ramis picture.

In 2005 in the electronic pages of  National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg wrote what has become a holiday classic. I’m a sentimental kind of guy. I read the Declaration of Independence on July,4 and Twas the Night Before Christmas on December, 24. Since 2005 I’ve read  Goldberg’s A Movie for All Time on February 2. You can read it here.

I’ll not attempt to rehash the article, but to those that laugh at the idea of a Bill Murray/Harold Ramis collaboration containing moral lessons, religious themes, and philosophical ramifications, and think that Goldberg is sophmorically trying to shoehorn an iconic pop culture film into the aerie, I quote from the article:

When the Museum of Modern Art in New York debuted a film series on “The Hidden God: Film and Faith” two years ago, it opened with Groundhog Day. The rest of the films were drawn from the ranks of turgid and bleak intellectual cinema, including standards from Ingmar Bergman and Roberto Rossellini. According to theNew York Times, curators of the series were stunned to discover that so many of the 35 leading literary and religious scholars who had been polled to pick the series entries had chosen Groundhog Day that a spat had broken out among the scholars over who would get to write about the film for the catalogue.

My only quibble with Goldberg is his only quibble with the movie. Namely, “My only criticism is that Andie MacDowell isn’t nearly charming enough to warrant all the fuss (she says a prayer for world peace every time she orders a drink!).”

He’s partly right. She’s not charming enough, but I think he misses the point about the drink prayer. Throughout the beginning of the movie we see Phil (Murray) roll his eyes at the sincere actions of others. Her toast to world peace is so over the top earnest that we laugh ourselves. It puts us in the position of Phil the post-modern know-it-all judging her as he has done to so many at exactly the point that he is beginning to cherish the little oddities that make everyone so interesting. I thought it was a nice audience involving touch.

If you’ve never seen the movie, I can’t recommend it more highly. You can buy it here. Or you could rent first.


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